The filing deadline for local elections in the Fairbanks area closed on Monday, netting 33 candidates for positions with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the city of Fairbanks and the city of North Pole (man, do we love government up here).
It’s not only good news for the elections in the area, which up until Monday had largely anemic fields, but also when it comes to representation.
Of those 33 candidates there are 13 women running for office this year, bringing challenges to every single elected office in the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the city of Fairbanks. (There are only two men filed to run for the mayor of North Pole). A review of the available election documents show it’s likely the first time ever in the Fairbanks North Star Borough or the city of Fairbanks that there’ll be a woman running for every available office.
If we look just at the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, voters have the opportunity to elect an assembly that comes closest to matching the gender demographics of the borough in the 50-plus year history of borough assemblies.
Here’s the candidates (All FNSB nine assembly seats are elected at-large to three-year terms):
Assembly Seat A
- Marna Sanford
- Sam Tuck
Assembly Seat F
- Liz Lyke
- Blaze Brooks
- Jeffry Rentzel
Assembly Seat G
- Leah Berman Williams
- Hank Bartos
- Michael Holland
Women have never held a majority of the seats on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, according to our analysis.
The highest number of women on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly was four, a figure that was reached in 2000 and 2001 during final few years when the assembly was an 11-member body. Since the assembly’s transition to a nine-member body, the highest representation of women on the assembly was three members.
That number has fallen in recent years with just one woman on the assembly–Kathryn Dodge–after the 2016 election. Angela Major’s election in 2017 brought that number back to two.
Dodge is term-limited and will be seeking a House seat in this fall’s state elections.
If all three women running for office on this fall’s election win, women still won’t hold a majority but it will be the closest the assembly’s membership has ever come to matching the gender demographics of the 100,000-person Fairbanks North Star Borough (four of nine members is 44 percent). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up 46 percent of the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s population.
And if recent election trends hold true, that outcome not out of the realm of possibility.
All three women are progressive, and the borough’s elections have favored progressive candidates for much of the last decade thanks in large part to strong fundraising and effective campaigning. The borough has opted for progressive candidates in nearly contested election for the borough assembly or borough mayor since 2012.
The 2017 election saw the first conservative candidate for assembly or mayor win in a contested race since the 2012 election, and even that wasn’t without some help. Berman Williams was in that race and came up just five votes shy of beating conservative candidate Aaron Lojewski in a four-way race where a second progressive candidate missed the deadline to withdraw and stopped campaigning (but still tallied 1,700 votes).
Berman Williams will be going up against conservative Hank Bartos in a three-way race this year. Bartos also ran for assembly in 2017, where he finished more than 2,500 votes behind Assemblyman Christopher Quist in a head-to-head race (Quist is one of four candidates that have filed to run for borough mayor).
Election day in the Fairbanks North Star Borough is Oct. 2. Early voting will begin on Sept. 17.
Here’s the rest of the field:
FNSB Borough Mayor:
- Nadine Winters
- Robert Shields
- Christopher Quist
- Bryce Ward
FNSB School Board Seat A
- Erin Morotti
- Robert Kinnard III
Schoo Board Seat B
- Chrya C. Sanderson
- Mike Kenna
Interior Alaska Natural Gas Utility Board at-large Seat A
- Pamea Throop
Interior Alaska Natural Gas Utility Board at-large SeatB
- Scott Eickholt
- Mary A. Nordale
- Jessica Garron
City of Fairbanks City Council, Seat A
- Shoshana Kun
- Andrew Thompson
- Jim Clark
City of Fairbanks City Council, Seat B
- June Rogers
- Lloyd Hilling
- Marcey Luther
City of Fairbanks City Council, Seat D (for a one-year term)
- Jonathan Bagwill
- Kathryn Ottersten
“…and the borough’s elections have favored progressive candidates for much of the last decade thanks in large part to strong fundraising and effective campaigning.” Um, no. The borough’s elections have favored “progressive” (some would use the term “liberal”) candidates because of the at-large apportionment scheme, which in many cases has shut out the more conservative eastern end of the borough entirely or nearly entirely. All of the other more populous boroughs in Alaska use one of the other three schemes provided for in AS 29, which involve districts in one form or another. I haven’t checked lately, but I believe the most populous boroughs after FNSB which elect assembly members at-large are Ketchikan Gateway and Kodiak Island, both of which have approximately one-sixth the population of the FNSB in addition to a more singular and unified community identity. There’s also the fact that labor unions, particularly the Laborers’ Union Local 942, are dominant both in fundraising and in organizing voters.
Several years ago, we had Joy Huntington, June Rogers and Bernard Gatewood on the Fairbanks City Council. I wondered out loud if this was the first time that the council didn’t have a majority of white males. Council member David Pruhs, then a regular guest of KFAR’s Problem Corner and now its host, responded to that with a long-winded answer which basically amounted to “I don’t like the question, so go bugger off”. One of his fellow council members gave the right answer to the same question: as the current and previous two mayors are white males and the mayor is technically a council member, that means that the council still has a majority of white males.